Lloyd Fisher of Grand Rapids, Mich. won the Connecticut PGA Senior Open Tuesday by two strokes with a sizzling two-round score of 5-under (137 out of par 142).
But the real winner locally of one of the state's top annual pro-amateur events is Shennecosset Golf Course in Groton, one of the state's best municipal courses that has hosted one of the jewels of the summer state golf season, a 29-year staple, for 14 straight seasons.
"It is an honor that we have hosted one of the signature events of the Connecticut PGA seasons for so long," said Todd Goodhue, Shennecosset club professional. "The fact we have hosted for this time period also makes a statement about the condition of the course and the job superintendent Eric Morrison does to make it a challenging but fair course."
Most Connecticut PGA events are held at private country clubs. Shennecossett is held in such high regard because it was once a private course built in 1898, hosting a number of pro events in the 1930s including appearances by legendary Bobby Jones.
"Shenny" has been tweaked over the years, redesigned by famed national golf architwect Donald Ross in 1969 when the town of Groton bought the course. The town purchased land from Pfizer in 1997 to secure three waterfront holes on the Thames River to beautify the 18-hole experience.
Senior golfers come and go in this intensely competitive format -70 pros and 70 amateurs vie for 70 final round spots in the two-day Senior Open. The fact the state PGA has stuck with Shennecosset speaks volumes about Groton's public course.
"This is a major date on the state PGA calendar," Goodhue said. "We're proud to host it."
The event attracts competitors from 10 states, including the champ from Michigan, to gun for the $2,500 professional first prize. The top amateur wins $650. Fisher, whose son is headed to Afhganistan, won by two strokes over Jerry Courville of Stratford.
Shennecosset amateur golfer William Ernst of Waterford shot a 73 after the first round to tie him with former Grand Slam tennis champ Ivan Lendl of Goshen, who is a senior golf pro now. Lendl, 51, showing his conditioning, shot a 72 in the second round to finish in a tie for 10th place. Ernst shot 82 in the second round, including a 5-over on the back nine to finish 18 strokes off the lead.
You can't blame the dropoff for a 52-year-old, considering the 92-degree heat. Jerry Rhinehardt of Waterford fared a bit better in the heat, shooting a 74 after his first-round score of 73 to finish in a tie for 19th overall.